Guilherme ends Legia's long wait
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
Legia Warszawa recorded a first group stage win in 21 years as Guilherme's well-worked first-half effort proved enough to defeat Sporting CP and claim third place in Group F.
Article top media content
Legia Warszawa qualified for the UEFA Europa League at the expense of Sporting CP as Guilherme's well-worked first-half effort proved enough for a first UEFA Champions League group stage win in 21 years, and third place in Group F.
The Polish side's first five matches had yielded a record 32 goals – at an average of 6.4 per game – yet only one was required at home to Sporting. Aleksandar Prijovic has been an increasingly influential figure in recent weeks and created the decisive moment here, collecting a clever Vadis Odjidja pass to cross for Guilherme to get ahead of his marker and beat Rui Patrício at the near post.
The home team had the majority of the good openings, although André might have rescued Sporting in the final 20 minutes, only to fail to convert from close range. Legia held on – indeed, they looked the more likely to get another goal – and the final whistle started their celebrations. Sporting's misery, meanwhile, was summed up by the late dismissal of William Carvalho.
Key player: Aleksandar Prijovic (Legia)
'Prijo' has been the favoured selection in recent weeks and justified that faith with a bustling, energetic display. His strength and hold-up play allowed him to bring Legia's midfielders into play, while his pivotal contribution was the assist that enabled Guilherme to score the lone goal of the night.
Legia's home improvement
Legia's campaign could hardly have begun any worse with a 6-0 home defeat by Borussia Dortmund, but they have steadily improved since then. The 3-3 draw with Real Madrid on matchday four revealed their resilience and unity, and this was even better. The hosts never let Sporting settle – the visitors appeared uncomfortable throughout in freezing temperatures – and were rewarded with a first UEFA Champions League group victory since 1995 and a ticket to the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
Piotr Koźmiński (@UEFAcomPiotrK)
Legia started this campaign by shipping 13 goals in losing to Dortmund, Sporting and Madrid, and back then it was hard to find a positive. However, that game with Madrid on 2 November, when they came from two down to lead 3-2 before eventually drawing, gave them confidence and provided a turning point of sorts. The subsequent crazy 8-4 defeat in Dortmund showed they could score goals against the best – seven in back-to-back meetings with Group F's eventual top two is impressive stuff. They might have feared the worst three matches in, but in the end they have had plenty to cheer.